Nebraska bill banning gender-affirming care for minors passes
LB574 includes abortion amendment with emergency clause
LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska lawmakers have passed the session’s most contentious bill.
LB574, which bans gender-affirming care for minors, passed Friday afternoon along with AM1658 and its emergency clause, which means the new abortion law will go into effect as soon as Gov. Jim Pillen signs the bill.
Once that happens, abortions would be prohibited after 12 weeks from the last period; current Nebraska law allows abortions up to 20 weeks.
LB574 will also require the governor’s situation but is set to go into effect in October.
State Sen. Kathleen Kauth, author of LB574, called for a cloture vote around 4:10 p.m. It passed 33-15-1. Shortly thereafter, the bill itself passed — with the emergency clause — by the same count. State Sen. Justin Wayne counted as “excused not voting” in both votes. Lawmakers were then adjourned until Monday by about 4:20 p.m.
Less than an hour into Friday’s debate, a protester began yelling as Kauth was giving comments during final debate, prompting the Legislature to adjourn for a short recess.
Kauth was at the mic at about 2:50 p.m. when an anti-LB574 protester began shouting and tossed some items off the balcony. Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly then asked for the balconies to be cleared, prompting more protesters to begin shouting.
Kelly then called for a recess. About five minutes later, the session resumed — but the balconies had been emptied.
With 10 days left in the legislative session — and senators working through their lunch hour — LB574′s final round began right around its scheduled time: 2 p.m. The bill’s debate on Tuesday started earlier than expected, but lasted nearly four hours longer than allowed for final reading as the clock was paused to debate motions on procedure; but those sorts of motions were not prevalent Friday.
Early into Friday’s debate, State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha used her time to share the words of trans people who had contacted her.
Several Republican senators following her used their time on the mic to emphasize their perspective that the legislation’s only intent was to save and protect children; and was not based in hate as they said those in opposition have been arguing. Others used their time to share comments about Planned Parenthood and perspectives on the 12-week abortion amendment, taking issue with opponents’ insistence that it wasn’t a compromise on the six-week ban bill that failed earlier in the legislative session.
Several Democrats in the Unicameral used their time to question implementation of the proposed bill with some arguing the bill was discriminatory and infringed on personal rights. Some urged their colleagues not to pass LB574, which they say was brought forth hastily and without any investigation into medical facts.
Friday’s last push comes three days after a lengthy debate that ended with abortion amendment AM1658 getting attached to LB574.
In anticipation of further protests, Speaker John Arch made an announcement on the Legislature floor Friday morning that observers in the gallery would be separated: opponents on one side, proponents on the other. Arch said he met with several senators on Thursday, efforting a way to allow for free expression while ensuring everyone’s safety — to come up with a set of recommendations for all in the Legislature to follow.
Friday, several state senators issued a signed memo shortly thereafter advising of those rules, and asking “individuals who seek to verbally express themselves do so in the Capitol Rotunda.”
“These extra parameters have been established with the recognition that LB574 is a significant piece of legislation that evokes deep emotional responses. Internally, appropriate decorum has been stressed for all members and staff. We encourage safe, respectful participation in the legislative process.”
Read the memo
Those in the balcony seats aren’t allowed to be disruptive, or have signs, but have at times yelled out after a vote — as was the case at the conclusion of the vote on LB574 on Tuesday when Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly requested that security escort several members of the public out of the chamber.
Tuesday’s protests in the rotunda, which could be heard in the background during the LB574 second-round debate, sparked discussion on the floor the next day as some senators said the situation made them feel unsafe.
Friday, similar protests could be heard echoing in the background of the chamber as protesters again gathered outside their doors. Senators said on their mics that they were having trouble hearing questions being addressed to them.
The final vote on the bill to ban trans youth care needed 25 votes to pass — but 33 votes before that to overcome a filibuster.
During his time at the mic Friday, State Sen. John Cavanaugh asked questions about how the rules on treatment would play out should LB574 become law. He also questioned whether any minors taking puberty blockers would be able to move to hormone therapy if the chief medical officer hasn’t come up with rules on the treatments.
LB574 in its current form bans gender-affirming surgeries for anyone younger than age 19. If it becomes law, those rules would go into effect starting Oct. 1. Patients who are already receiving those treatments would not have to cease that care.
Alongside the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the state’s chief medical officer — currently Dr. Timothy Tesmer, an ear, nose, and throat doctor — will be able to decide the rules on puberty blockers and hormone therapy for those younger than 19 years old. The position of CMO is an appointed, not elected, state official.
The state Attorney General’s office would also be involved in order to assure the policy meets legal standards.
The rules would go into a 30-day public notice period allowing for a public hearing where people can testify.
AM1685 would ban abortion at 12 weeks as soon as it’s signed by the governor. The amendment does include exceptions for medical emergencies, rape, and incest — however, there is no exception for fetal anomalies.
In the last 24 hours, more than 1,200 Nebraska medical professionals have signed a letter asking senators not to pass LB574. That’s in addition to more than 100 businesses that have signed a letter asking lawmakers not to pass it.
It’s like there will be several legal challenges to the bill should it pass. Senators said Friday there are lawsuits ready to be filed.
Managing Editor Kevin Westhues contributed to this report.
Copyright 2023 WOWT. All rights reserved.